Not content with earning a spot as one of the most decorated field hockey athletes in Cazenovia High School history, Zoe Shephard is now a part of some more history at Princeton University.
In the 2019 season, Shephard, a sophomore, helped the Tigers recover from a 3-4 start to win 13 in a row and make it all the way to the NCAA championship game before getting stopped by North Carolina, one of the finest programs in college field hockey history.
Twice in her long and successful career at Cazenovia, Shephard led Cazenovia to the state Class C championship game, while snaring All-Central New York and All-State honors and, in 2015, earning a gold medal with her team at the Junior Olympics.
Once at Princeton, Shephard saw limited action in her freshman season, 2018, taking part in 15 games, but unable to earn a goal or assist. That would change a year later.
Though she still missed a pair of games, Shephard, in the 19 other games, recorded two goals on just five shot attempts and added three assists, tying for sixth place on the Princeton roster with seven points since goals count for two points.
The irony that Princeton faced North Carolina in the NCAA final was that the Tigers’s season opener back on Sept. 6 was against those same Tar Heels, who at the time were riding a 23-game win streak.
Foreshadowing what it would accomplish later, Princeton led UNC 3-1 late in the fourth quarter before the Tar Heels, with three goals in the last six minutes (including one with 24 seconds left), pulled it out 4-3.
From there, the Tigers got three close wins over Wake Forest (in overtime), Albany and Penn State, but then lost three straight, two of those in OT to Connecticut and Maryland, to arrive at that 3-4 mark.
But starting on Sept. 28 with a 4-0 shutout of Dartmouth, Princeton caught fire, and a 5-4 OT win over then-no. 2-ranked Duke added to the momentum. The Tigers won the Ivy League tournament title Nov. 9 by topping Pennsylvania 3-1.
The NCAA Tournament started for Princeton with a game against Shephard’s hometown club, Syracuse University, with the Tigers handling the Orange 5-1 before going on to avenge its earlier defeat to UConn 2-0 in the quarterfinals on the Huskies’ own home turf.
It marked the ninth time Princeton had reached the NCAA final four, and the third time in four years as it attempted to add a second national championship to the one it earned in 2012.
At Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Tigers rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to knock off Virginia 2-1 in the national semifinals on Nov. 22.
And this led to the title game against UNC. Just like in the first meeting, Princeton went out in front thanks to Emma Street’s goal just 2:13 into the game, but the lead didn’t last.
The Tar Heels unleashed its attack, moving ahead 2-1 by halftime, and the Tigers’ numerous chances on penalty corners were not converted. UNC then dominated the latter stages, netting four more goals to win 6-1 and complete a second straight undefeated season.